2018 Best EMBAs: Lucy Houchin, Purdue University (Krannert)

Lucy Houchin

Purdue University, Krannert School of Management

“A professional collaborator who is eager to learn from all aspects of life.”

Age: 32

Describe yourself in 15 words or less:  

Hometown: Huntingburg, Indiana

Family Members: Carrie Houchin (Mother), Brad and Maggie Coomer (Sister), Georgie Coomer (Niece)

Fun fact about yourself: I’ve recently moved to the United Kingdom for exciting professional and personal adventures!

Undergraduate School and Degree:

  • Butler University, Bachelor of Arts, English
  • Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis, Graduate Certificate, Public Management

Where are you currently working? IDI Composites International – U.K., Managing Director

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work, and Leadership Roles: I have recently moved to a new city (and country) so am still getting connected in the Birmingham community. My previous community work in Indianapolis included work on behalf of the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention (CHIP) and alumni fundraising for Butler University

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? The academic achievement I am most proud of during business school is the Active Learning Project my team and I completed for a German-based steel manufacturer. Working with the company’s corporate strategy division, we developed an additive metal manufacturing market analysis and recommendations for market entry. In addition to the value our deliverable brought to the company, I am also proud of the collaborative relationship I developed with the leaders of their strategy division as well as the team-oriented approach I helped to lead within our EMBA team. Spanning four different time zones and various professional backgrounds (engineering, strategy, sales, and HR), our team collaborated in a way that enhanced one another’s strengths all while managing full-time careers.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In my professional career thus far, I am most proud of earning the trust and support of our U.K. team, which has led to improved performance of the business unit and growth opportunities on the horizon. My predecessor in the U.K. led the business for the previous 25 years with a specific business strategy and a distinct leadership style. Taking over the reins as a younger woman new to the industry, I would be asking the team in the U.K. to change not only their way of doing business but also their expectations of what success looks like.

I am proud to say that today the team in our U.K. business operates with an eye toward growth and continuous improvement. Drawing on the lessons from Change Management and Leadership courses during the EMBA helped to manage this process in an intentional way. We now have clear feedback channels, collect and make available day-to-day metrics, and most importantly have a clear vision for the future.

Who was your favorite MBA professor?  My favorite MBA professor was Dr. David Schoorman for Organizational Behavior. In addition to being incredibly engaging and making material relevant to our experiences in the “real-world,” Dr. Schoorman encourages his students to tackle the very abstract, very important, and very difficult topics of trust and respect within organizations. His mastery of the subject matter and his skill as an instructor results in lessons so clear that I felt that I did not learn them, but rather that he helped me to know these critical truths for people – and therefore business – organization and management.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? My favorite MBA course was Advanced Finance. On the first day, our professor told us, “Don’t think about it as ‘advanced.’ Think about it as ‘more finance.’ You can all do this if you just think.” This was so poignant to me because – in addition to teaching us the elegance of finance – he was also encouraging me to have confidence in my skills and knowledge and to use the tools I had been given. This was particularly helpful with intimidating topics like finance, but I have thought back to this class and this insight in many business scenarios since that time. In addition to the confidence that this course gave me, I draw confidence from the tools and business knowledge gained from the entire MBA.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I chose to pursue my MBA from Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management because it is one of the top-ranked executive MBA programs in the country. More importantly for me, it is an institution respected throughout the world for its engineering and technical education. This latter point is especially important to me as I entered the world of manufacturing. As a woman with indirect experience in the manufacturing sector, I recognized the benefit of a program rooted in the business of “makers.” Coursework such as “Management of Manufacturing & Service Operations” and “Developing a Global Strategy” added technical depth to my understanding and credibility to my qualifications.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? Aside from the opportunity to know and work with my incredible peers, I most enjoyed the opportunity to reflect on and think about the possibilities for my business and myself. I am like most busy professionals – many days I am just getting through the day-to-day blocking and tackling of running a business. Going through business school, however, allowed me the space to consider the possibilities for not just myself but also for our business. I began to see opportunities in every aspect of our business and in my role within it. Some opportunities I found were tactical and immediate – the set of questions I use when coaching my team, for example – and others, such as the way we determine where and when to expand into new markets, were more strategic with long-term implications.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? One of the biggest lessons I learned during my MBA that was immediately relevant was the way in which cultural changes within an organization can be managed for smoother and more successful changes. As my EMBA peers and I were learning about the intentional steps a leadership team can take to effect change, our business in the U.K. was in need of major change to the expectations and work practices that drove behavior in the team. Learning about the driving and restraining forces which affect motivation – as well as the personal compacts which we all enter into in our professional lives – provided me with the information I needed in order to more successfully plan for future changes. With these things in mind, I followed the roadmap offered by John Kotter – shared information which established a sense of urgency, communicated (and recommunicated) a clear vision, and formed a coalition of leaders from all levels within the organization to help lead the changes we needed to make. This was a case when both the theoretical elements of the MBA course (i.e. personal compacts) and the practical elements (Kotter’s 8 step model) merged at just the right time with my professional demands.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? Approximately half-way through the MBA program, I accepted a work assignment which required me to move to the United Kingdom. In addition to juggling the mix of emotions I felt about moving to a new country, I had to balance taking over a leadership position with a new team, saying goodbye to family and friends (and trying to make new ones), coordinating logistics of moving to a new country, and four MBA courses. During this time, I had a “learning laboratory” with my new position in which to test ideas from school. I read case studies on flights and over lunch breaks, woke up at 2:00 a.m. for conference calls with my study group, and grew a new network in the U.K. with several contacts made through my MBA colleagues. In hindsight, I see now how much the EMBA program helped me through the many big changes at this time.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? My EMBA experience taught me that you get out as much as you put in. My advice, then, is to dig in to the material, the experience, and the people who can teach you so much.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The biggest myth about going back to school for my MBA was that it was going to be all finance and accounting. While the Purdue EMBA program was heavily quantitative and always grounded in data-driven approaches, these became the tools with which to view and manage the other disciplines of strategy, marketing, risk management, organizational behavior, and leadership.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My biggest regret during business school was not having more time in the day. As a full-time professional, the demands of my career, school, and my personal life inevitably meant that trade-offs had to be made. I was 100% committed to each of these parts of my life, which made some decisions excruciating. Having to choose between special occasion dinners with friends or family and studying for our Economics final, for example, made me regret that there was not enough time in the day to do it all.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? While I admire all of my MBA classmates, I most admire my colleague and friend Eva Nodine. An incredibly smart, tough and talented finance professional, she is responsible for the financial systems and budgeting for a $2 billion organization. She does not shy away from change or challenge. She is humble, willing to work hard, and shares her gifts and advice in a collaborative way. On top of the many professional and academic accolades I can give her, she is a constant provider, friend, and mom to her two boys and a constant friend to all.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when….I joined IDI Composites International – the business my grandfather started in 1966. Until I joined the business he started, I largely viewed my professional development selfishly: what skill gaps did I need to fill to get to the next level, next raise, next recognition?”

However, to contribute to my grandfather’s legacy is an honor I take very seriously. With this opportunity comes great responsibility. Not only do I want to successfully execute my day-to-day responsibilities, but I also needed to equip myself with tools necessary to support and guide the business toward long-term financial stability, strategic market development, and overall growth and positioning within the global composites industry. The responsibility I feel toward good stewardship of the business was the primary motivation for pursuing the Executive MBA program. On-the-job education and personal drive would only get me so far; I needed formal education in these areas to be truly successful.”

“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be….unaware of the many ways to improve my business and my own performance.”

What is your long-term professional goal?

I have the honor of working for a business that my grandfather started 50 years ago. My long-term goal professionally is to be a good steward of the business he started. More specifically, I hope to continue to work internationally and one day lead global strategy for IDI.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you?

I hope my peers remember me as someone who was eager to learn from their experiences, someone who worked hard with them so we could be better together, and someone who they will know as a friend and peer for a long time.

Favorite book: As a Literature major in undergrad, this is difficult…William Wordsworth’s “Lines written above Tintern Abbey” were the words that made me fall in love with literature.

Favorite movie or television show: Singing in the Rain – the perfect example of what a movie should feel like.

What are the top two items on your bucket list:

  • See the Northern Lights
  • Learn/Become certified to scuba dive

What made Lucy Houchin such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

“Throughout her life, Lucy Houchin has been driven to advance her knowledge and skills to feed her intellectual curiosity and professional aspirations. She saw the team-based learning environment of the Purdue EMBA as an opportunity to bring to the table skills which she had honed in her career: listening, facilitating discussion and relationship-building. Her quiet leadership, positive outlook and keen wit also earned her high regard from her peers. Lucy’s leadership philosophy of 1) communicate clear expectations, 2) build trust, and 3) get out of the way served her well as a valued and respected member of any team.

An infectious smile and upbeat outlook, as well as her competitive spirit and sharp wit, are what many would say draw them to Lucy. She knows how to laugh at herself and enjoy a good-natured joke among her peers. She can also be quite focused and studious – critical skills in the Purdue program. During the first module (semester), she was the top student in quantitative analysis and organizational behavior. It is a rare for a student to do so well in such different topics.

Shortly after starting the EMBA program, Lucy accepted an opportunity to supervise a team in the UK, rounding out her natural business acumen in international manufacturing markets in her family-owned business, which she had recently joined after ten years of previous work experience. The blended online and on-campus format of the Purdue EMBA program allowed her to continue her coursework without missing a beat.

Lucy experienced a family loss during the last module of the program, while the cohort was in residence in Madrid. Returning to the US, she had to miss the next few days of the residency, but returned on the last day to regroup with the colleagues who were an important support network during that difficult time.

She acknowledges that joining the manufacturing business started by her late grandfather in 1966 carries great responsibility. Honoring his legacy by guiding the business toward long-term financial stability, strategic market development, and overall growth and positioning within the global industry is her goal, and her reason for pursuing the Executive MBA at Purdue.”

Donna Steele
Senior Program Manager

DON’T MISS: THE ENTIRE LIST OF 100 BEST & BRIGHTEST EXECUTIVE MBA GRADS OF 2018